27 companies publicly support Paris climate agreement, but donate millions to GOP group undermining it
Twenty-seven companies that urged the Trump regime to stick with the Paris Climate Accord also contributed a total of $3.3 million to the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) that has worked assiduously to dump President Obama’s signature Clean Power Plan. That plan was designed specifically to reduce greenhouse emissions from U.S. power plants in 2030 by 32 percent over 2005. It’s the key U.S. government effort to help meet the emissions goals of the nonbinding Paris accord. And it’s in limbo.
The excuse from the companies that responded to investigators from the Center for Public Integrity who revealed the contributions? It’s just politics. They said they had also contributed to the Democratic Attorneys General Association. In other words, all that cash was just pragmatism on their part. Uh-huh.
The center’s Rachel Leven and Jamie Smith Hopkins write:
But campaign finance experts countered that business officials can influence policy without writing a check to decision-makers like attorneys general—advocating their policy positions through lobbyists, for example. Because these businesses have said climate action is a priority, making political contributions that can work against that goal puts their reputations or even revenues at risk, these experts said.
“I don’t doubt that their public statements about the Paris climate agreement are sincere but it matters that when it actually comes down to how they spend their money, they’re giving to politicians that have almost the exact opposite goal,” said Daniel Weiner, senior counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice’s Democracy Program, which advocates for campaign finance reform. “It doesn’t mean that they’re actually lying, but it does lead one to wonder how strong their commitment to fight global warming actually is.
While RAGA has, of course, engaged in other activity, the center’s reporters note that the Clean Power Plan, which requires states to come up with methods of reducing emissions from fossil-fuel power plants within their boundaries, has gotten “an outsize share of energy” from Republican attorneys general.
Along with a handful of Democratic AGs, the Republicans have sued the Environmental Protection Agency over the plan in a case that is slowly winding its way toward the Supreme Court. The court itself ruled 5-4 in early 2016 that the plan should be on hold until a lower court ruling on it is decided. Indeed, on RAGA’s list of achievements on its website: convincing the court “to halt implementation of Obama’s signature climate change initiative.”
Levin and Hopkins found that only two of the 27 companies had openly challenged the Clean Power Plan. Several others have supported it strongly, with Google and Microsoft going so far as to file legal arguments against the lawsuit the Republican AGs had launched. And yet those two contributed nearly $400,000 to RAGA. Worst of all among the 27 was SolarCity, the nation’s largest provider of residential solar panels. The morning the Supreme Court stayed the Clean Power Plan, SolarCity’s stock plummeted. That ought to have delivered a clear message. Yet just three months later, the company contributed $20,000 to RAGA, giving nothing to the Democratic Attorney Generals Association. Perhaps that was just stupidity. But it sure wasn’t evidence of sincerity.
In response to the Center for Public Integrity’s reporters, Coca-Cola and Intel noted that they don’t expect their contributions to align perfectly with every group to which they give money.
But Bruce F. Freed, president of the watchdog Center for Political Accountability, points out how not paying attention to what’s being done with that money can backfire. In 2010, Target, which had developed a reputation for gay-friendly policies, was boycotted for contributing $150,000 to the super PAC of a candidate who opposed marriage equality. The company at first said this was just pragmatic politics, contributing to pro-business candidates in both parties. But the boycott eventually generated a Target apology. “There are real consequences,” Freed said, “when there is a disconnect.”
Real consequences. And big ones.
While Daniel Weiner at the Brennan Center may not doubt the companies’ sincerity in the matter of climate change, it should not be forgotten that long before the Clean Power Plan was around to be bashed by the group now getting their cash, many of these companies were not exactly on the cutting edge in dealing with climate change. In fact, as we have learned over the recent past, Exxon Mobil—which gave $210,000 to RAGA and none to its Democratic counterparts—donated a hell of a lot more money to help engineer decades of climate science denial when they full well knew that this disinformation was contributing to a global disaster.
But that stream of cash, just like their current contributions, was designed to protect their bottom line. Never mind the planet’s bottom line.
(Originally appeared at DailyKos.)